“I disapprove of what you say….”

Hands up who knows how this quotation, allegedly by Voltaire, finishes.

I disapprove of what you say.....

That’s right: “….but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It strikes me that this point of view needs repeating and repeating, needs re-examing and needs debating, especially in our modern times.

I read that a group of ‘antifascists, feminists, and people who participate in the class struggle’ felt it was appropriate to disrupt a speech by well-known right-wing M.P. Jacob Rees-Mogg.

I also read that well-known left-wing M.P. Diane Abbott has been receiving ‘sickeningly racist and sexist abuse’.

I have only picked two examples, which seem to me to typify some of the standards of poitical ‘debate’ which are seen as acceptable at the present. I would like to widen the argument to include more censorship issues, including art, film, theatre, music (yes, really) and no doubt others, but you, dear readers, are all intelligent and aware enough to provide your own. Just look up ‘modern examples of left-wing censorship’ or ‘modern examples of right-wing censorship’ on any search engine (more than one is available) if you want more. BEWARE if you have high blood pressure.

In principle, I feel that speech should be free. Something about the basic principles of censorship appals me. If you start to censor anything, where do you stop? Who does the censoring?

I hope you notice that in the course of this confused amble through my thoughts I have avoided expressing any political opinions; unless a basic objection to censorship is political.

I tentatively conclude that free speech is important and that censorship is wrong. Every case where it is advocated should be considered very carefully. (Personally I feel, for example, that nobody should be allowed to advocate violence; but you may well disagree.) It hugely worries me to see free speech of any sort being suppressed.

Footnote 1: The quotation of the title was used by one Evelyn Beatrice Hall to summarise Voltaire’s views; they are not his words.

Footnote 2: An alternative to Voltaire was expressed by Samuel Johnson: “Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it.” The picture, sharp-eyed people, is of Dr Johnson.

Footnote 3: I also note that the BBC’s political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, needed a bodyguard at the Labour Party conference. Meanwhile, a local politician here in sunny Hampshire was telling me how anti-Conservative Ms Kuenssberg is. When the BBC gets flak from both sides of the political argument (sorry for the warlike metaphor) they must be doing something right.

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Election Notes 7: It’s easy, go and do it.

Making a pencilled cross on a piece of paper isn’t such a big deal; yet, when I vote, it always makes me feel great. I live in a country where it’s allowed; where it actually makes a difference. Nobody can tell me how to vote. Nobody can know how I voted.

It’s not difficult. Get your polling card (although you actually don’t need it) and go to the polling station given on it. You can ignore the people outside; they are party representatives trying to work out how many of their supporters have voted. (I always politely just say “no” when they ask me.) They CANNOT by law ask you how you vote. Go inside, give your card to the nice person behind the desk. They will give you a ballot paper. Go to the booth, make a simple cross against the name of your chosen candidate with the pencil provided. Resist the temptation to write or draw something rude. Fold the paper, put it in the box. Thank the nice person behind the desk (not obligatory, but it’s a thankless job). Go out, ignore the canvassers again and go for a coffee (not obligatory).

That’s it. Simples. Of course, that doesn’t have to be the end for another five years. You can get involved, write, campaign, etc. More on this later. (No groaning at the back there.)

Oh, and if you still aren’t decided, pick the candidate whose policies you dislike the least.

People died for the vote. I cannot get out of my head the image of South Africans queueing for hours in the sun to vote after the end of apartheid. Don’t let apathy win.

Vote Oblique

Note: There is a good article for first time voters here: BBC News- What can you NOT do in a polling station?

Election Notes 6: The Others

Just for the sake of balance and completeness, here are election pamphlets from the other political parties in the our constituency. We had not yet received them at the time of my post Election Notes 5: Who Should I Vote For?.

None of them have photos of their party leaders, although the independent candidate probably is the party leader.

As usual, I am sitting on the fence until the splinters hurt too much; but a vote for a minority candidate is not a wasted vote; if that person fits your views best, then you have made your views known.

DSCN6746 DSCN6747DSCN6745

Election Notes 5: Who Should I Vote For?

Well, don’t ask me. I am still undecided, and I wouldn’t tell you how to vote anyway.

I have said before that if you don’t know about the issues, it’s your duty to find out. I’m aware that’s incredibly naive of me.

At least you could look at the election fliers that come through your letterbox. They do give some sort of indication of what is occupying the minds of the parties. Here are the ones we have had since the election was announced.

Interestingly, only one uses a photo of the party leader. One uses a photo of the leader of another party. I’ll leave it to you to guess which one. The problem is that I agree and disagree with points in all of them. That’s democracy, folks.

Additionally, at least two other parties which have fielded candidates in the past have not yet posted pamphlets. Does this mean they are not running? Does it mean they can’t afford the cost?

(I did, in my usual anxiety to be fair, place the above in alphabetical order.)

Election Notes 4: Registration

If I sound as if I’m obsessed by this, I do not apologise; I am deeply concerned that everybody should vote, and if I can persuade just one person who was not going to that they should exercise their democratic right and responsibility, then it will have been worth it. If you are a UK citizen and you haven’t been registered, it’s dead easy. Just go on this website:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

It takes about five minutes or less and all you need is your National Insurance number. It doesn’t matter if you have already done it- you don’t get two votes! (Yes, if you’ve already got a polling card you don’t need to do it.)

Then you can vote in the June 8th election. You can choose by hair colour, dress sense, personality, political party or even (for goodness’ sake!) their policies.

Just do it. But register before midnight on Monday May 22nd or you will be disenfranchised. Painful.

Election Note 2

Election notes 2

Briefly: At the time of the last election, I was talking to a young, intelligent woman who told me that she would not be voting because she did not know anything about the choices. I was horrified, but failed to persuade her to vote.

Last night I was reminded of this when a potential voter in the West Midlands was interviewed about the forthcoming mayoral election. She was not aware this poll was happening.

There is no law in the U.K. compelling one to vote. Apparently there is in at least twelve countries, including Nauru and Cyprus. I’m not sure if compulsion is a good idea; ultimately I consider it’s your right to vote or not. However, I strongly believe you should vote.

If you don’t vote, you are letting politicians get away with anything they like. The vast majority are very well-intentioned, but it’s a slippery slope. You cannot moan, grumble or complain about their actions unless you have made your voice heard. Of course, your elected representative may not do what you want, and you may not have voted for them anyway; but you can write to them, campaign, discuss; this is a democracy and still pretty free. (Are you allowed two semi-colons in one sentence? Oblique style is to over-use them, I’m afraid.)

If you don’t know enough about it, go out and find out about it. We should all be involved in our democracy. That’s what makes it still great.

Phew, got carried away. Must go and have a lie-down. No- it’s coffee time!

Election Note 1

Another election looms in the U.K. While I don’t intend this blog to promote any particular political view, I will be voting and I would urge anybody eligible in the U.K. to vote. It DOES make a difference; you CAN make your views known and take action in many other ways, but you have no right to moan if you haven’t voted. (More on this at a later date. If I get round to more election notes.)

Election notes 1One strange phenomenon of which I was first aware during the last election and which has appeared again this time is the staged meet-the-public photo-opportunity. All the party leaders and other prominent characters have been in these. They appear to be speaking to a group of the public; of course, this group is a group of their party members and supporters, all carrying supportive placards and cheering on their leader. In one recent such occasion you could spot the constituency candidate smiling awkwardly behind the main man. (There’s a clue.)

I was musing on this today when a news item appeared on the TV which struck me forcefully with its similarities to the U.K. situation. It was a short clip of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, beaming as he walked along being applauded by a group of his generals.

Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that our political parties and their leaders are in any way like Kim Jong Un and the North Koreans. However, such staged and artificial situations are not worthy of our democracy.

In case you are wondering, I have not yet finalised the Oblique election manifesto. Chocolate may well feature. I am consulting my supporters. Certainly baseball caps worn back-to-front will be banned. The Fashion Police may be given increased powers of enforcement.